Where did August get its name?
by Craig Chalquist
In 8 BCE August was named in honor of Augustus (Gaius Octavius), the adopted son of Caesar and founding emperor of the Roman Empire. Although not free of conflict, his reign saw the end of the Roman Civil War and ushered in the Pax Romana, the two-centuries-long Peace of Rome.
Augustus derives from augere, “to increase.” Birthrates tend to be high in this month.
Questions to consider: With Juno (June) and Jupiter (July) having coupled, what awaits birth this month? What kind of division or conflict now eases as new possibilities come forth? Warmed by the fires of the Jupiterian July sun, what now increases? What looks forward to the Fall harvest?
The Mythic Everyday: Dragons in San Francisco
by Hannah Custis
While I was walking through the city last winter, I stumbled upon this dragon in the Inner Sunset District. Although the aluminum-wrapped tray is probably someone’s leftovers they forget on the bench, I’d like to imagine it was an offering for the dragon – a sign of respect, gratitude, or perhaps in hopes a favor.
The dragons I grew up with in myth and literature were usually fearsome monsters guarding treasure and threatening heroes: the fire-drake Beowulf faced in old age, St. George’s notorious adversary, or wrathful Smaug from The Hobbit.
However, here in San Francisco, a city where over 30% of the population is of Asian descent [link: http://www.highbrowmagazine.com/1844-san-franciscos-asian-population-will-soon-become-majority], the sinuous, majestic dragon is celebrated. Not only have I seen it on street benches, but splayed across the sides of buildings, twined around lampposts, and decorating store windows. It’s the mascot of the elementary school where I work; the children collect their “dragon dollars” (a reward for good behavior) with pride.
Whenever I am lucky enough to come across these dragons, I’m reminded of Maxine Hong Kingston’s description from The Woman Warrior:
“Unlike tigers, dragons are so immense, I would never understand one in its entirety. But I could explore the mountains, which are the top of its head … I could listen to its voice in the thunder and feel its breathing in the winds, see it’s breathing in the clouds. Its tongue is the lightning. And the red that the lightning gives to the world is strong and lucky …
“The dragon lives in the sky, ocean, marshes, and mountains; and the mountains are also its cranium. Its voice thunders and jingles like copper pans. It breathes fire and water; and sometimes the dragon is one, sometimes many.”
The last time I rode the N Judah train past this corner, it looked like the bench had been painted over and some new, indeterminate symbol had replaced my dragon. Or, as I would like to believe, maybe it had flown away ….
Have you encountered any dragons lately? Share your stories in the Comments section below! (*)
Myth and Music
by Lola McCrary
This month we share the music of S.J. Tucker, called Sooj by friends and fans. Her website says she “is the voice of lore at the campfire and the sharp laughter of modern myth. With one hand anchored in her art and the other held out to you, she is songs and stories, community and wit.” Her musical styles include folk, blues, rock, and jazz. She has written soundtracks for books and movies. She is part of a band that also uses mythic themes called Tricky Pixie. All her music can be streamed and there are links there to buy it.
I find that Sooj’s music goes from goddess to trickster (listen to the tango “Alligator in the House” on her Sirens album). She often sings about personal growth and transformation and includes—as if their presence should be taken for granted—mythic themes. One of my favorite examples is her song, “Crystal Cave” on her Haphazard album, where she encourages our unfolding paths saying, “Follow Inanna’s footsteps down. To hell with the bumpy ride.”
A stellar songwriter, Sooj often retells stories in new ways. Sirens contains what S.J. describes as “The Wendy Trilogy, in which Peter Pan’s Wendy learns how to be a pirate and eventually overthrows Captain Hook!” and a ballad called “Valkyrie Daughter” about a soldier who gives up his own chance at Valhalla to to petition Hel on behalf of his dead child.
Her stage presence is amazing, as her YouTube videos will show you. She is a master costumer, and the artwork for her albums is varied and beautiful. Take a listen to her at the link above, or watch her here.
(*)“The Mythic Everyday” is a new rotating column in our Myth in Focus Newsletter. Readers are welcome to share snapshots and anecdotes of where they’ve encountered myth in their everyday lives. Submissions may be sent to email@example.com for consideration in the newsletter – please note that images must be copy-right free (or copyright owned by author) and will be resized to fit our webpage.
Thank you for being a member of our community. We hope you have enjoyed August’s newsletter! If you have comments or suggestions for themes, please let us know. We are happy to hear from you!